Goal 10 - Housing and what we can do about it

Mary Kyle McCurdy
Mon, 05/16/2016 (All day)

Testimony to LCDC following their Hatfield Fellow Report

1000 Friends of Oregon has been engaged in Goal 10, Housing, since the inception of the land use program, through litigation, advocacy, policy development, and community engagement.  Therefore, we are particularly heartened to see the work of the DLCD Hatfield Fellow focused on affordable housing.  Julia McKenna has provided a comprehensive report on the status of housing issues within the land use program, how it relates to the Oregon Housing & Community Services agency (OHCS), and current issues facing Goal 10 – including its possible role in how jurisdictions demonstrate compliance with federal fair housing laws.

Below are several observations and recommendations, but our overarching request is that the Commission take this report to the next stage, by taking its recommended actions to revive and reinvigorate Goal 10 within the land use program, and in a larger context.  In our view, and we are certainly not alone in this, the Department and Commission have been fairly dis-engaged from housing issues for at least a decade. We hope you take advantage of this work to make Goal 10 meaningful to all Oregonians again.

Land use is an essential, but not sufficient by itself, component of ensuring all Oregonians have access to affordable, diverse, safe, and well-located housing. As Goal 10 so accurately reflects, even though written 40 years ago, the land use system can and should deliver tools that provide for a sufficient amount of housing, in the right locations, and of diverse types in all communities.   Goal 10 and its administrative rules contain powerful direction that needs to be implemented, including the following from Goal 10. This is just a selection, but it illustrates that Goal 10 is fairly comprehensive, and yet its implementation has not matched its language. It is unclear to us whether the Goal itself needs any changes, given that it has been neglected.  Therefore, we urge the Commission to focus first on carrying out the current Goal, while evaluating whether administrative rules and other tools need to be revised.

Goal 10
Buildable lands for residential use shall be inventoried and plans shall encourage the availability of adequate numbers of needed housing units at price ranges and rent levels which are commensurate with the financial capabilities of Oregon households and allow for flexibility of housing location, type and density.

Goal 10 – Guidelines
1. In addition to inventories of buildable lands, housing elements of a comprehensive plan should, at a minimum, include: (1) a comparison of the distribution of the existing population by income with the distribution of available housing units by cost; (2) a determination of vacancy rates, both overall and at varying rent ranges and cost levels; (3) a determination of expected housing demand at varying rent ranges and cost levels; (4)allowance for a variety of densities and types of residences in each community; and (5) an inventory of sound housing in urban areas including units capable of being rehabilitated.

2. Plans should be developed in a manner that insures the provision of appropriate types and amounts of land within urban growth boundaries. Such land should be necessary and suitable for housing that meets the housing needs of households of all income levels.

Goal 10 –Implementation
1. Plans should provide for a continuing review of housing need projections and should establish a process for accommodating needed revisions.

We turn to some specific observations, building on those of the Hatfield Fellow report.

The term “housing crisis” does a dis-service.  We appreciate the Hatfield report did not use the term “affordable housing crisis.” That is a misnomer and does a dis-service to the many Oregonians who have been housing insecure for much longer, particularly people of lower income, people of color, and in some rural areas.  Neither Oregon nor the rest of the country got here overnight, and this will not be solved overnight either.  Regional, national, and global economic forces, wages, and work force changes have been large drivers of income polarization and housing costs increasing faster than income, and now these forces have reached middle income Oregonians, making housing issues seem new, but they are not. In addition, people tend to forget about issues when the “crisis” has passed, which in this case might be when housing insecurity again becomes less visible.  Therefore, we urge the Commission to make a long-term, comprehensive investment in Goal 10.

Evaluating local compliance with Goal 10 at UGB stage is insufficient.  For a long time the Department has dealt with Goal 10 largely when an urban growth boundary expansion is being considered; this has been particularly true given the shrinking of periodic review.  While a city’s compliance with Goal 10 is required to be comprehensively evaluated when considering a UGB expansion, including a housing needs analysis and a buildable land inventory, most Oregon cities have not expanded their UGBs, and many might not ever do so.  Those cities that have evaluated or might evaluate their UGBs for expansion, with the exception of Metro, are not likely to do so more than every 10 years at the most, and in reality far less frequently than that.  Yet all cities are changing in demographics, and many are growing in population.[1] 

To provide all Oregonians with the housing tools of Goal 10 – and a “continuing review of housing needs” - requires a more comprehensive approach by the Commission and DLCD than at the time of UGB evaluation.

Providing a sufficient amount of housing is a matter of capacity, not acres. Recent economic and land use studies are clear:  the major challenge to sufficient housing in high-demand and high-opportunity communities is one of artificial restrictions on the provision of housing, including density, housing types, and height. “[T]he problem is primarily constraints on achieving higher levels of density within existing urban areas: i.e. building more multi-family housing. Rents are rising in Portland (and Seattle and San Francisco) because of the difficulty/constraint on building more density in the center, not expanding the periphery.”[2]  

This is echoed by the Chair of the President’s Council on Economic Advisors, in remarks that were widely and wildly mis-characterized in the recent legislative session but are quite clear: “Zoning restrictions—be they in the form of minimum lot sizes, off-street parking requirements, height limits, prohibitions on multifamily housing, or lengthy permitting processes—are supply constraints. ***Much of the recovery in multifamily, however, may be the result of shifting preferences, with Americans desiring greater density, as evidenced by the growing share of people choosing to live in urban areas.   The looming problem, though, is that multi-family housing units are the form of housing supply that is most often the target of regulation, thus restricting the potential for sustained long-run growth in this category.“[3]

For DLCD this means working with OHCS staff to remove barriers in local zoning codes to meeting Goal 10, through: grants to local governments for updates to their Goal 10 plans, reviewing PAPAs, audits of city zoning codes for Goal 10 compliance, and enforcement, among other steps. DLCD should consider whether completion of a city’s population forecast by PSU should trigger a Goal 10 audit.

Location matters.  It is not enough to have a home with an affordable rent or mortgage.  One has to be able to affordably get around to meet daily shopping, school, recreational, and other needs and to get to work.  Transportation is the 2nd highest household cost after the rent or mortgage for most families. Metro has lead the way in Oregon in combining both housing and transportation costs to evaluate whether a household is housing insecure, and to map the locations in the Metro region that are more affordable to live fully – not merely reside.  This has multiple benefits:

  • Families save money if they do not need to own a car or a 2nd car, or if they can drive fewer miles.  The average cost of owning a car in the US is about $12,000 per year.[4]  That savings can buy a lot of housing, health care, food, and education.
     
  • Greenhouse gases are reduced when affordable and diverse housing types are located near transit and in walking and bicycling-friendly neighborhoods.  Recent extensive studies from California have found:
     

For DLCD this means working closely with ODOT to integrate the agencies’ greenhouse gas reduction strategies with funding of transit, walking, and bicycling facilities and with the locational planning of affordable and diverse housing types in individual communities.  This could be done through, for example, a pilot program in an area like the Bear Creek Valley, where the local governments have a jointly-adopted long-term regional land use plan, the local transit provider is engaged in land use and climate issues, an active affordable housing agency exists, the Rogue Valley MPO area has a state-established GHG reduction target, and DLCD and ODOT have already done preliminary work evaluating the ability of local land use and transportation plans to meet that target.

Exclusionary zoning exacerbates economic and racial segregation and isolation. Recent studies have highlighted that local zoning restrictions can have disparate impacts on those of lower income and communities of color.  Local, restrictive, exclusionary zoning practices – not statewide land use planning, land supply, or environmental regulations – are the core problem.[7]  Oregon has long been ahead of other states in that Goal 10 requires every city to provide land zoned to meet the residential needs of all Oregonians.  However, what that means for local zoning restrictions on housing types and density restrictions needs to be updated, through updated guidelines and rules from DLCD, and through audits of existing city zoning codes. As noted in the Hatfield report, Goal 10 needs to be integrated with federal law on affirmatively furthering fair housing.

As the Commission considers its next steps, we hope you view this as a long term, multi-faceted investment. We support the recommendations in Ms. McKenna’s report, and emphasize some themes in particular:

  • Fund staff and other capacity, including capacity shared between DLCD and OHCS, devoted to identifying and removing local zoning code barriers to affordable and diverse housing types, particularly those barriers that are impediments to furthering fair housing, as defined by federal law.
  • Develop an audit of local government codes for Goal 10 compliance.  This would include an evaluation of whether a local code has unnecessary barriers to affordable and diverse housing types, and whether it allows affordable and diverse housing.  There are many resources for this, including the ECONorthwest list of action items for Hood River, included in the Hatfield report; the Goal 10 list developed by the Homebuilders Association and 1000 Friends of Oregon; HUD Guidelines on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing; and Table 5 of the Goal 14 streamlining rules developed by DLCD staff.
  • Train field staff and planning services staff on Goal 10 and larger housing issues.  Allocate staff time to monitor local government land use actions and provide technical services to local governments on Goal 10.  This includes reviewing all proposed post-acknowledgement plan amendments (PAPAs) for Goal 10 relevance and compliance; providing comments on whether a Goal 10 issue is raised and if so, whether the PAPA complies with Goal 10; and appealing local decisions that violate Goal 10.
  • Allocate grant funds to updating the Goal 10 provisions of local comprehensive plans and zoning codes.
  • Successful implementation of Goal 10 is intimately tied to achieving the state’s greenhouse gas emission reductions, to public health, to complying with Goal 12, and to meeting the state’s and local governments’ obligations under federal fair housing law.  The Commission and Department, with the guidance of the Governor’s office, should direct these agencies to work together, and with OHCS, to accomplish these shared goals in coordination and more effectively.

The land use program can deliver a comprehensive set of tools that addresses the density, location, and amount of housing, and requires that these be linked to a 20-year housing needs analysis, buildable lands inventory, and infrastructure planning for every city and county.  We urge the Commission to build on the Hatfield report by taking the specific actions we and others have recommended.
 


[1] Evaluations of the original UGBs delineated by Oregon’s cities and the population growth projections on which they were based demonstrate that most UGBs were designed for population levels that many cities have not yet reached.

[2] Cortright, Joe, City Observatory, Busting Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary Won’t Make Housing More Affordable, February 5, 2016.  http://cityobservatory.org/bursting-portlands-urban-growth-boundary-wont...

[3] Furman, Jason; Barriers to Shared Growth: The Case of Land Use Regulation and Economic Rents, Nov. 20, 2015.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/page/files/20151120_barri...

[4] Humes, Edward, The Absurd Primacy of the Automobile in American Life, City Lab, April 16, 2016.  http://www.citylab.com/commute/2016/04/the-absurd-primacy-of-the-automob...

[5] Why Creating and Preserving Affordable Homes Near Transit is a Highly Effective Climate Protection Strategy,

TransForm, California Housing Partnership Corporation, 2014.  http://www.transformca.org/transform-report/whycreating-and-preserving-a...

[6] Building and Preserving Affordable Homes Near Transit: Affordable TOD as a Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Equity Strategy, California Housing Partnership Corporation, January 2013,.http://www.chpc.net/dnld/FullReport_CHPCAffordableTOD013113.pdf